content moderation the internet is trash garbage delete button

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Passionfruit newsletter: The internet is trash. Who’s going to clean it up?

I’m tired of looking at it, just take it away, please?


Grace Stanley


Posted on Nov 8, 2023   Updated on Nov 9, 2023, 11:17 am CST


Issue #183 | November 7, 2023

For years, writers have been calling out cyberspace for being full of garbage. It’s a permanent archive of all the weirdest, grossest, darkest, and most disturbing parts of ourselves — immortalized into offensive memes, snarky Reddit threads, and bad tweets. If you’re anything like me, you probably just want to curate your feed to be Snoopy/Sanrio memes, funny old Vines, Fantano music reviews, and then take all the other stuff and put it as far out of sight as possible.

But of course, taking out the trash doesn’t make it go away. Someone else has to lug your crap across town, across the ocean, into some trash island or landfill somewhere — in the internet’s case, it’s Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitch moderators exiling users to 4chan, Kick, or Truth Social. Or, pushing people into the millions of disparate servers and blogs that don’t have any kind of regulatory influence whatsoever. The internet is vast, and people can get away with a lot in the junkyard.

This “take the trash out of sight” content moderation strategy works in the short term, of course. Us normies who live on Instagram and TikTok don’t have to see it, smell it, address it. But putting horrible things into ever-piling corners of the world (or the internet) isn’t going to stop the source.

We realized that with Trump, right? The loudest liberal-leaning Twitter users didn’t want him around. Yet removing him from our Twitter (and Facebook) timelines did nothing to stop his reach or power. In case you missed it this week, he’s ahead in the polls for the 2024 election. (It’s Nov. 7, by the way, Happy Election Day!) 

Look, do I think Trump should’ve been banned from social media? Uh… yeah. He fanned the flames of a chud-y riot, intimidated the judiciary branch, threatened journalists, etc, etc. The “free speech” argument is at times used as a red herring, distracting from the consequences of poor conduct. But the point is, banning Trump did nothing to stop him from creating endless amounts of content in more isolated corners of the internet. If anything it’s taught us that siphoning off his millions of followers to remote areas where they’ll be further radicalized with no checks and balances only allows them to further cultivate their views. 

Perhaps then it’s better to take a different, more hands-on approach towards curating a healthy public digital space through content moderation. But the question of who exactly is responsible for the health of the internet has been around since its birth…

Grace Stanley, Newsletter and Features Editor

In Today’s Newsletter:

  • Twitch Announces Rehabilitation for Banned Streamers
  • TikTok’s New Creator Program Is Just as Vague as the Old One
  • From Big Oil to the U.S. Navy: Some Interesting Advertisers Are Recruiting Young People Through Twitch

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*First Published: Nov 8, 2023, 11:04 am CST